Encouraging Times at St. Paul’s.

Funding. It’s nice this week not have to be focusing so much on funding issues though I am always conscious that I really need you to be keeping in touch with me if you have any concerns about school fees. Even more concerning would be for anyone to be making decisions about leaving St. Paul’s or not coming in the first place due to concerns about fees. Please contact me and we can work things through. As our Director Peter Hamill has said many times, no one is to be denied enrollment due to fee issues. Please be assured of our support for our community.

Support.  The remarkable thing about the past few weeks has been the insights we have gained into what is valued about the college by our community and what those who are considering us as an educational choice for their son identify as defining differences. Such things as the holistic education the boys receive, the focus on the faith life of young men,  a developing social justice program placing others at the centre of their lives. With improving educational standards including a strong focus on literacy,  numeracy and modern learning skills supported by technology, a focus on the well-being of each boy through a structured pastoral care program supported by Year Coordinators, Counselors and PC teachers which coalesce into producing fine young men who are ready to face the world with confidence and the ability to make a real difference. 

We are very grateful for the support shown to the college through this time and thank you for the encouragement this has provided. 

Feast of St Paul. This Friday we celebrate the feast day of St. Paul on the Feast of St. Peter and St.Paul.

“Peter and Paul are heroes who belong not only to the early Church but to the entire history of Christianity. Their pastoral leadership, their missionary zeal, their doctrinal contributions and their heroic examples—all have come down to us as the foundational principles of Christian life and will ever remain so. Both of them have played the most vital role in shaping the Christian Church to be what it is….Paul, a persecutor of Christians, was made the greatest preacher of Christianity after his encounter with Christ on the way to Damascus. He was so convinced of his call and mission that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ.” (God’s Word Daily Reflections 2017, St Paul’s Press)

Paul is the patron saint of our college, chosen by Br. Bourke 87 years ago as a robust example to the young men of this college. He endures today as a man who was famous for his courage, clear on his convictions and prepared to stand up for them. He went out into the world and made a real difference, establishing communities of welcome and hospitality centred on the story of Jesus.

Paul did not lack for difficulties or travail, all of which he bore out of love for Christ. But all the effort he expended and all the success he achieved never led to glory for himself. 

He was a powerful and erudite communicator to those communities through his letters or epistles. These became part of the Canon of the Church. Jesus Christ is the center and foundation of Paul’s writing and preaching.His legacy is incredibly influential. The feast encourages us to reflect more deeply on the theological and spiritual legacy St. Paul left to the Church through his vast effort to spread the faith. 

His life is a model to us of how to live life to the full, to not compromise what you stand for. His own form of excellence he called perfection which was gained through a life guided by Jesus but importantly in community. Hence we celebrate his example as community. As we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Paul, let’s reflect on what lies at the heart of his legacy to us today.

God Bless.

Chris Browne

College Principal. 

 

 

The Bridge of Adolescence

Bridge of Adolescence

There are many good books about adolescence. My favourite is one which I think speaks very clearly to us as parents of boys seeking for them to become good men. It is written by Celia Lashlie and is called He’ll Be OK: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men. Its a 200 page book and is an easy read . She is very clear and her views come from not only being a parent of sons but also as a Sociologist and researcher who led a project looking teenage boys across NZ schools. She was a compelling speaker and if she was still with us I’d have her here to speak but unfortunately she did after a short illness in 2013.

However her advice still holds great relevance for us today. She speaks of the Bridge of Adolescence , that period between childhood and manhood. Mothers tend to be the primary influence up until adolescence but ideally mothers pass their sons to their fathers to walk them across the bridge, teaching them how to be a good man by example. In her words, mothers need to step back and fathers need to step up.

The image above shows us the pitfalls that await our sons if they fall off the bridge. We, as parents,  provide the barriers- guidance to keep them from falling off. That’s what parents, fathers in particular, need to be doing at this time. The barriers to falling off the bridge should not move. However as they move towards adulthood the rules we apply need to relax a little but there still needs to be some non-negotiables.

Research into adolescence by the Longitudinal Study into Australian Youth, LSAY, reported at an Australian Council for Educational Research conference that boys are insulated from risk taking the better the protective factors are around them in their lives. It didn’t say there will be no risk taking , it did say however that the better the protective factors such as family boundaries, clear rules, good health, good education, emotional support etc, the later in their lives risk taking may occur.

This , I think helps explain the troubled area of boys in cars, house parties that go awry when parents go away and leave their son in charge of the million dollar home etc.

I have heard many stories of parents who have gone away trusting their teenage boy with their house and possessions and lamenting the wisdom of that after the house party etc. It shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. In the same way teenage boys allowed to go out with friends parents don’t know. In some cases the parent has literally stepped aside and allowed the boy to experience the pitfalls, not deliberately but that’s the result. Avoidable in many cases.

Research into  brain development  summarised well by John Medina, himself a developmental molecular biologist telling us that adolescence is lasting into their twenties as the brain is still developing which lengthens the time for parental engagement, the length of the bridge. If we want fine men we need to stay engaged as parents.

Many in a single parent family situation would rightfully note that is all very well, Dad may not be engaged, “I’m on my own” etc. Celia’s advice was that it is important to find good male mentors for the bridge journey that you can trust- male relatives, sports coaches etc. Boys can tell you who they connect with. Encourage those connections. Don’t forget, Mums may be asked to step back and allow the boy to be walked over the bridge by the males in his life but Mum is still watching the journey. Mum should not be a disengaged parent.

Family law recognises the importance of both parents and where they can, they are known to default to a shared situation as they understand the importance, in this case for boys, of a father’s involvement. However every family situation is different and complex and far be it for me to generalise.

These are challenging ideas for us as parents but it comes with the territory. Our boys becoming good men serves us all as well as themselves.

God Bless,

Chris Browne

College Principal

Fairness and Choice

A colleague for whom I have enormous respect and regard is Angus Tulley who is Principal of St Francis Xavier College, Florey in the ACT. He’s also President of the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese Principal’s Association of which I was a member in 2015 and 2016 whilst Principal at Hennessy Young. His measured but well reasoned contributions to the funding debate resonate so well one could replace Canberra / ACT with Manly just as validly without in any way diluting what he has said.

There’s a misconception everyone in Canberra (read Manly) is affluent”

“My parents are bureaucrats, butchers, bakers, panel beaters … there might even be some belly dancers out there.”  So do we!

“Education is being used as a political football, and if they continue with this, they’re just going to kick an own goal.’’

“…he just wanted all students treated fairly and parents afforded choice”. So do I!

We have families from all sorts of backgrounds and contexts who have chosen to send their sons here for a quality Catholic education in the Edmund Rice Tradition. If one looks at the Commonwealth calculator and compares it to what the diocese had to allocate to run a secondary college like us there is a difference that will need to be made up if the diocese is unable to distribute as it currently does. Why is there a difference? Staffing costs in secondary colleges are higher and we are dealing with a maturing work force most of whom are on top scale salaries given time of service, site costs etc.

The Socio Economic Status calculator derived from 400 people’s income’s averaged in a postcode is a blunt and very inaccurate profile of the St Paul’s community. It doesn’t reflect our families. It doesn’t take into account rising rents, low rising wages, mortgage costs etc. The shrinking household purse of many in our community are not served at all well by what the Commonwealth proposes. This isn’t my opinion only, its made by the architect of ‘Needs based Funding” himself,

“The SES measure is subject to a potentially large degree of inaccuracy”. David Gonski

This week there are forums in the local region led by our Director Peter Hamill, another man of great integrity, who will brief our parents on all the issues around the funding debate and where things are up to.

You may wish to watch this video produced by St Leo’s College Wahroonga on the funding issue.

In the meantime please be contacting your local  House of Representative members and Senators. A list is accessible through this link

You also may wish to read the NCEC position paper on funding through this link

The following paper was distribute at the St Kieran’s parent forum:

SES 1

SES 2

WE HAVE TO ACT NOW.

God Bless

Chris Browne

College Principal.